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    Which Medicines Lower “Bad” (LDL) Cholesterol?

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    When you have high cholesterol, the first thing to do is to change your diet and fitness: less saturated fat, no trans fat, and more activity.

    If that doesn’t bring down your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol enough, your doctor may suggest that you also take medicine to help out. (You’ll still need to keep up those lifestyle habits.)

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    There are several different types of prescription drugs that lower LDL. Get to know what each of them does.

    The Most Common Cholesterol Meds: Statins

    These are usually the first type of drug that doctors prescribe to lower LDL. They also lower triglycerides, which are another type of blood fat, and mildly raise your "good" (HDL) cholesterol.

    Statins include:

    • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
    • Fluvastatin (Lescol)
    • Lovastatin
    • Pitavastatin (Livalo)
    • Pravastatin (Pravachol)
    • Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
    • Simvastatin (Zocor)

    Studies show that statins lower the chance of a “cardiovascular event” such as a heart attack.

    Side effects can include intestinal problems, liver damage (rare), and muscle inflammation. High blood sugar and type 2 diabetes may also be more likely with statins, although the risk is “small” and the benefits outweigh the risks, according to the FDA.

    Statins drugs may also interact with other medications you take. Your doctor should check on that first.

    Some people who take statins have reported memory loss and confusion. The FDA is looking into those reports and notes that in general, the symptoms weren’t serious and were gone within a few weeks after the person stopped taking the drug.

    You should avoid grapefruit and grapefruit juice when you take statins. Grapefruit makes it harder for your body to use these medicines.

    Niacin

    What it is: This B-vitamin, also known as nicotinic acid, is found in food but is also available at high doses by prescription. It lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol.

    Examples include: 

    • Niaspan
    • Nicoar

    Research has not shown that adding niacin, when you already take a statin, further lowers your risk of heart disease.

    Side effects: The main ones are flushing, itching, tingling, and headache.

    Drugs that Work in Your Intestine

    What they are: Your doctor may call these “bile acid resin” drugs or “bile acid sequestrants.” The work inside your intestine. They attach to bile from the liver and prevent it from being absorbed back into your blood. Bile is made largely from cholesterol, so these drugs whittle down the body's supply of cholesterol.

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    Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

    Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
    What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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    or
    Answer:
    Desirable
    0-199
    Borderline
    200-239
    High
    240+

    Your level is currently

    Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

    Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

    Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

    Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

    Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

    Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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